What was the motivation for flipping the bird at the camera?

Today, flipping the bird has probably lost most of its shock value, but in 1960s it was still considered terribly offensive in most contexts. So occasionally, I’ll come across photos of popular rock bands of the time (e.g. The Grateful Dead), or celebrities from other youth-oriented activities, like the famous surfer Miki Dora, and they’re all giving the one-fingered salute to the camera.

I get that they wanted to appear totally edgy and untrammeled by the conventions of polite society. But it also seems to me that it’s insulting to whoever looked at the photo. Who, in these cases, were mostly the fans who bought the band’s records and went to their shows, or amateur surfers who took a genuine interest in the sport.

I probably just answered my own question, but was there something else there I’m missing?

You’ve covered the basics. It may also be a s FU to the photographer, who may have been bothering them for hours as they try to get that perfect shot. I think it’s Neil Young who refused to play until the photographer in the front stopped taking pictures. There’s a video of it.

My favorite shot is Grace Slick drinking a beer and popping out a boob. I’m guessing the photog wasn’t expecting that!

I think the most famous photo of a musician flipping the bird is not of a rocker or a surfer, but of country legend Johnny Cash from 1969 at rehearsals at San Quentin. He much later used it in a magazine ad after his comeback with “American Recordings” as a dig at his former label Columbia.

This poster hangs on my living room wall.

I can understand celebrities flipping off paparazzi who hang around waiting for an embarrassing moment. I’ve never been big on that gesture, myself. Once, an old friend of mine demanded that I flip the bird for a photo. I did it, but I was embarrassed to give an FU to a friend.

One of my brothers has a display of photographs of people flipping the bird. It’s mostly friends and family (if I’m remembering correctly one of them is one of our nieces or nephews as a young child, whose mother was not amused).

Oh, this brings back a memory. I must have been about five when my older brother, and a still older neighbor girl who hung out with us, goaded me to walk into the the den and say a particular word to the adults (my mother and her mother, probably).
I went in there and said the word, and earned an immediate spanking.

For quite some time after that I mistakenly believed that the word “fact” was a swear word.

FWIW, you didn’t have to be holding a camera to get flipped off by an asshole like Mickey Dora.

Yes, I have a lovely photo of my happy children experiencing their first day at Disney World, complete with my ex-husband’s hand lying along the back of the seat they were in, flipping the bird.

They aren’t flipping off the viewer, they’re flipping off The Establishment and The Man who are always trying to keep us down.

^ Yeah, basically this :+1:.

At least it was the case for Johnny Cash, who virtually gave the finger to the wardens of San Quentin.

Still happens…just this past week:

What’s possibly more noteworthy or amusing than performers flipping birds back then is people famous for reasons not usually associated with that kind of display did. Nelson Rockefeller once gave the finger to some hecklers when he was campaigning for Gerald Ford:

Caused a bit of a stir.

In my own case as a non famous person I don’t want to have my picture taken so when I am forced to be in a photo I express my displeasure and hope that people will get the hint and leave me alone. For the most part my family has stopped taking pictures of me and excluding me from family photos much to everyone’s delight.